Can My Spouse Start Divorce Proceedings Outside The UK Against My Will?

Date: June 20th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

 

The short answer is yes, provided that:

  • Your spouse does so in a country that has the jurisdiction to deal with the divorce; and
  • Serves you with the divorce petition in the proper way

In many divorces more than one country will have potential jurisdiction. And in Europe at least, if your spouse starts proceedings first you will only be able to stop them in very rare circumstances.

 

Why Does The Country Of Divorce Matter?

The eventual outcome in relation to finances and arrangements for children can differ hugely depending on where your divorce case is heard. As a result there is often a big incentive for one party to issue proceedings in a country of their choice (assuming the criteria for divorcing there are met) without giving notice to the other. Consider the following:

  • The courts in England and Wales are traditionally recognised as being more generous to financially weaker spouses
  • Different jurisdictions adopt varying approaches to valuing and dividing pensions, trusts and businesses
  • The tax treatment of any settlement will differ from country to country
  • Some legal systems are cheaper to use and more efficient than others

 

Does The Country Your Spouse Is Starting Proceedings In Have Jurisdiction?

Your spouse can only issue proceedings in a country with jurisdiction. In the EU this means fulfilling the criteria set out in the Brussels II Convention. In England and Wales this depends on the concepts of domicile and habitual residence. In other European countries nationality is usually the determining factor.

If your spouse wishes to divorce in a country outside the EU the situation is not so clear-cut. He or she will have to satisfy the rules regarding jurisdiction for that particular country. And what if one party to the divorce objects to the choice of a non-EU country as the place to commence proceedings? Then the courts will have to engage in a delicate balancing exercise to decide the correct forum for the divorce. As we have illustrated above that decision could have far reaching consequences for both sides in terms of any final settlement.

The issue of jurisdiction is often complicated, particularly when a non-EU country is involved. At Brookman we are familiar with international jurisdiction rules and have represented clients divorcing in countries across the world. If you would like to discuss any of the points we have call us on +44 (0) 20 7430 8470.

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Syeda Rizvi 09/09/2018

I can’t recommend Brookman solicitors enough. I met with Mr Aziz Malik from Brookman solicitors for a case that had an international dimension to it, and found him extremely competent, professional, reassuring and empathetic. Knowing that my case was time sensitive, Mr Aziz was quick to initiate the legal process, kept me updated on the case progress, responded very promptly to all my correspondence, gave very sincere legal advice and addressed all my concerns in a very patient and responsible fashion. He was very involved in the case, and I knew from the get go that my case was in safe hands. Throughout the process, the law firm also kept me posted on the costs of the services I was getting, hence making the process very convenient and transparent for me. The barrister they appointed to represent me at the hearing(s) was equally competent, knowledgeable and articulate. Thanks to Brookman solicitors, the outcome of my case was exactly what I had wished for, and I am beyond delighted. I am extremely grateful to them for their services. Please keep up the good work!

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I engaged Brookman Solicitor's on a particularly complex topic related to international divorce. Henry and his team provided excellent support and his expertise was a critical factor in a successful outcome. I would not hesitate in working with this firm again, or recommending them to others.

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